Gifted by God to keep Going & Giving

Third Sunday in Advent

A woman by the name of Bette Nash has been a flight attendant for 60 years when flights were just $12 and you didn’t need a reservation. She says, “My favorite part of flying over the years has been greeting my passengers as they board and deplane. People really are fascinating and it’s truly been a joy.”

With all those miles logged, Bette could fly any route she wants. She chooses to fly the shuttle between Washington D.C. and Boston so this single mom can be home in time to care for her son, who as Down syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity. One recent afternoon, that meant taking him to see Santa Claus near their home. In whatever hours she has left, she volunteers at the food pantry at her local Catholic parish of Sacred Heart. The C.E.O. of American Airlines made a $10,000 donation to the pantry in honor of Bette Nash’s 60th milestone.

While the famous and the infamous garner the headlines, it’s people like Bette Nash who actually run the world.

I believe that Bette Nash could claim to say many of the words that we have heard in today’s proclamation of the Word.

The prophet Isaiah says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted.” Mary, the mother of Jesus cries out in our psalm today, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” John the Baptist knows he is not the Christ, but he does admit, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.” And “I am not worthy loosen his sandal strap.”

After all these years, Bette has learned something. The passengers might not listen to everything she says at 30,000 feet—and her son might not listen to everything she says on the ground. But Bette, as she approaches her 82nd birthday on New Years Eve, says she has found something that seems universal and true. “People want a little love. And I don’t mean a lot of hugging and everything, even though we might do that. But this is the big thing: People need attention. You can’t buy love. You can’t buy attention. But people need this.” She says, “And it’s free. You can give this to people for free.” Jesus once said, “Without cost you have received, without cost you need to give.”

For the past 41 years Nash has been a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, VA. She has given of her hospitality, the gift of her son, the gift of her volunteerism, and the gift of her love. For 30 years, Bette served as an “envelope counter,” but now she volunteers at the food pantry. It’s something she and her son, Christian, who has Down syndrome, can do together. The pantry gives out food to 40-50 families every Saturday morning. Bette hopes the money can be used to buy food when supplies are running low, as they often do during the summer. But she leaves the final decision up to Diane and her pastor Father Michael. “I’m’ a worker bee and I never want to be a queen bee,” she said. How fortunate we are here at St. Monica’s and St John’s with so many worker bees for Jesus. There is desperate need for more workers. Are some of you game?

The prophet Isaiah, Our Blessed Mother Mary, and John the Baptist believed that they received wonderful gifts from God. They are grateful and share them with us today. Bette Nash is grateful for the support of her friends and her employer who have helped her stay in the skies all these years.  She recently said, “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving.”

As full Catholics, we are all like flight attendants who have been hard at work for many years. Even though Bette is 81, she must still be able to pass the annual test for emergencies including knocking out a heavy window or throw open a large door. If there is an emergency, the passengers are Bette’s responsibility, with dozens of souls in her hands. In our ministry as confirmed Catholics, we must sometimes throw open the large heavy doors that block so many people from a deeper relationship of love with Jesus and God. Hundreds of souls are depending on our hospitality, mercy and smiles.

Wouldn’t it be great news if each of us could say the same at Christmas? “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving. The spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. My soul proclaims the greatness of God and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Isaiah 61:1-11 ~ I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul;

Psalm (Luke 1:46-54) ~ My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, Thessalonians 5:16-24 ~ May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

Gospel: John 1:6-28 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Looking for Christ in Christmas

Gospel St. Matthew 11:2-11 ~ When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.

What are you looking for this Christmas?

Where are you looking?

Have you ever considered looking Christmas in Easter?

In both celebrations we are looking for something special below a tree, one an evergreen and one a cross. Below both trees the mother holds her child. Below both trees… the light shines out through the darkness.

John the Baptist was looking for the Messiah all his life. John and his disciples were looking for God in all the right places, but did not find him. It reminds me of the movie, “Finding Nemo”. The little fish was attempting to find the ocean when he was swimming in it.

Jesus began his ministry as an adult. He entered the synagogue that he grew up in. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that he had practically memorized. The people looked for the Messiah but did not see him before their very eyes. Jesus told us his mission statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me                                                                                                                   because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.

God sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,                                                                                             recovery of sight to the blind,                                                                                                                                    to let the oppressed go free                                                                                                                                     and to proclaim a year acceptable to God.”

I have been on over 12 missions to poor places like Haiti, Honduras and Africa. I was looking for Jesus in the poorest of the poor. I don’t speak the language of the peoples, but I can hear and see what Jesus is doing through wonderful and dedicated people. A Frisbee or soccer ball brings about unimaginable healing in the people I come to serve and especially in myself. The blind see the poor as equal to us. Queen of Peace missions have literally done what Jesus begs us to do. They have helped people walk again, waters to be cleansed, surgeries to give new life, devastations to restore, an attitude of gratitude, and the materially poor and spiritually poor have the good news proclaimed to them. So much more to do.dscf9317

Christmas is about receiving gifts from God, nurturing them responsibly, sharing them lovingly in justice with others. This is the gift we return with increase to God. We receive the baby at Christmas, but we return the Body of Christ in our bodies at the foot of the genuine Christmas tree. We offer our tears and our brokenness. We also return our fruit from the gifts God planted in our souls. The more we share the Gift of the Holy Spirit and our fire with others in justice; the more fruit God channels through us; fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, self-control and faithfulness. This is the best Christmas gift we could ever imagine giving to God. We give the gift every Christ Mass wrapped in our Mission Statement.

As Christians we receive God’s gifts gratefully,

cultivate them responsibly,

share them lovingly in justice with others,

and return them with increase to the Lord.

Jesus could say to them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see in my followers:

They were blind but now they see, they were paralyzed in fear but now they walk in truth, they were impure with sin, but now forgiven, love has broken through their deafness, and they now breath in… hungering and thirsting for more.”


My gift to Jesus this year is an instrument… an instrument of peace.

What is your Good News? What is your Gift? You still have time.


The Pastoral in Counseling

O my! I finish my first semester this week at Loyola!
I haven’t written much because of my panic over five courses with a Jesuit institution.
In Response to my volunteering at Stella Maris and the Sisters of Mercy, I wrote the following. I hope you were all generous to the Retirement fund.
flying in the colorIMG_0295
What was the most important thing I learned?

I used to be neurotic and narcissistic. Everyone told me so.
The more I tried to change myself, the worse I got.
Then one day, my closest friend told me, “Ron you really need to change.”
I was devastated.
My self-esteem was shot.
Beneath my skin, where no one could see,
I felt humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty.
Beneath my skin I was boiling with disdain, rage, and defiant blaming.
My anxieties increased and so did my unloveliness to the world.
When I recanted with, “I am special!”
They told me, “No you are not! You only think you are special in some grandiose way!”
They told me I lacked empathy, when I knew it was they who lacked empathy.
They told me I was arrogant and haughty, and that I thought I was entitled to compassion.
I thought telling me “that” was arrogant, haughty and uncompassionate!
Why did they focus on me? Why did they blame me?
No matter how much I tried, I could not change my narcissistic symptoms and criteria.
My diagnosed personality disorder was pervasive and landed me on Axis II.
I was stuck for life.
My need for admiration, approval, and having to be the center of attention got worse.
My family and community cut me off, because they thought that I was contagious.
I cut my family and community off, because they were so judgmental and unjust.
All I really desired was success, power, brilliance, beauty and ideal love.
I could not understand what was wrong with that?
Doesn’t everyone desire success, power, brilliance, beauty and ideal love?
I was so alone.
I was narcissistic and unloved.

Then one day, The Pastoral Counselor sought me out.
She told me, “Don’t change, I love you just the way you are!”

Don’t change! Don’t change! Don’t change!
It was like music to my ears, blood to my heart, and spirit to my soul,
especially after all that psychological diagnostic stuff.
She told me what I believed all along.
She affirmed me and told me I was beautiful, brilliant and very special.
And do you know what happened?
I changed.
As soon as someone could love me as I am, here and now, through and through,
I could change.
I not only changed… I became a pastoral counselor. *
Jumping in Cuba
Why is it important?

Saint Paul pointedly says, “But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” (Corinthians12:25-26) This is the key to understanding the marginalized. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, unjust elder care, the self-centered, and the dying are everyone’s problem. Those marginalized can also be everyone’s opportunity and joy. Just as anxiety and mental illness run in families, they may also run within churches, communities, nations and our emotional systems. By addressing a social justice issue like quality health care for all, we rarely make a transformative change unless we are willing to be transformed ourselves. It has become very clear to me after surviving my first semester attending Loyola University’s graduate school in pastoral counseling, that coming to grips with my own basic self and values is essential to embodying the identity of the “true pastor” in pastoral counseling.
Robert Wicks and Thomas Rodgerson share in the introduction of Companions in Hope (1998), that it was written as a “partial antidote to the isolation and potential alienation of people in a world that is moving too fast and, in the process, rapidly discouraging people from fulfilling their human and spiritual responsibilities to each other. It is written with the belief that ordinary people need to be considered as a critical component to the healing team of caring professionals that includes clergy, therapists and doctors (p. 2).”

How will it impact my work as a counselor?
Sister Regina and I talked for my last hour. We realized that the soul of the ministry with the elderly, sick and dying is more about sharing the good news about Stella Maris, rather than just ministering to the few people we help. The ministry changed us both as we recognized our own anxieties and speed bumps. My gift of writing and preaching could be sharpened and be of great service in advocating for the competent, compassionate and comprehensive health and housing services for the elderly, the sick, the injured and the dying (especially pastoral counselors). When a person is facing imminent death, anxieties rise even in the family member who seems calm. This is when a pastoral counselor is the specialist more accurate than a community counselor without pastoral training. All of us must one day die, but it is the counselor who is aware of his/her strengths and limitations that can go in like the surgeon and help the transition to the divine.

I used to be neurotic and narcissistic. I still am. The difference now is that I am changing because of unconditional love. I am transforming, and I will always be transforming, into a “very special” pastoral counselor. There is so much to learn.

Gratitude. That is my final word. Thank you Deb for mentoring me through my wrestling with the introduction to pastoral counseling identity and Stella Maris. The day that Dr. Elizabeth Maynard shared with the class about her little two-year-old asking on a Saturday morning, “School!?” was my wakeup call. Loyola, with her service-learning, reminds me of my sea years at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and beyond. The first day I boarded a new ship; my almost clinical panic attacks with all their anxiety baggage would paralyze me and cause me to dread the day (similar to my phobia of writing about community counseling). Then, a day or so later, I would wake up at half past three in the morning for my 4 to 8 am watch in order to complete my navigational journal (service-learning) and shoot some stars and planets. Silence, prayer, faith, love, service and peace embraced me as the ship plowed through the majestic seas. The sacredness of the starlit mornings can heal any soul. So I now realize that I often bolted up at O-dark thirty in my cabin and shouted, “School!?”

Can you see Jesus?

Can you see Jesus?

*The opening poem is a creation influenced by the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (p. 714-716) and a memorized poem told by the late Anthony DeMello, SJ.

Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron +


The best Gift ever!

Christmas can be a very anxious time because people that love us give us gifts. Whenever we receive a gift, it comes with a burden. Think of the last gift that you received. Did you feel like you owed something back to the person?

Sometimes, a simple “thank you” is just not enough. We sometimes try to be prepared if someone gives us a gift. We don’t want to feel cheap or inconsiderate if we don’t reciprocate with a gift that is even more thoughtful. We clamor to figure out if we have paid our debt for this generous and kind gift.

Now think of God, who gave us His beloved Son as a gift. Do we sometimes attempt to outdo God? Ouch! Even though our parents aren’t perfect, we are still so filled with gratitude for the life they sacrifice to give us. Sometimes we try to repay our parents by spoiling our children or grandchildren. We never feel satisfied in our giving.

Christmas is definitely about giving gifts. But it is so important for us to realize that the best gift ever has already been given; Jesus the Christ. We can’t reciprocate or come close to matching this gift. We receive the most awesome and amazing gift ever given or that will ever be given.

This doesn’t mean that we come to the Midnight Mass empty handed. But we do need to bring an empty heart. God cannot fill us with intimate and compassionate love unless we have the room. “Mary wrapped the infant in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” We must bring our emptiness and longing for a love that will help us survive our death and the death of those we love.

Advent is a time to prepare our gift for our One and Only Love. We bring the only gift that God desires. What is the gift that you can bring to God for giving us Jesus? Each of us is capable of playing our drum for the babe in the stinking manger. God desires each of us, more than we desire God. We must recognize this and respond in kind. We can bring our charity and love for the poor. We can bring our studies of sacred Scripture. We can bring our contemplation. A great gift would be to simply come home to the Sacred Heart and family of the church, warts and all!

In my 52 years of life on this earth, I have celebrated Christmas (Christ Mass) in many different places and countries. Whether it was in Korea, Okinawa, Puerto Rico, or in Fallujah, Iraq during a war, I always felt I was at home at the Mass. It reminds me of when Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days when he was twelve, and Jesus simply said, “Why did you search for me, didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” I am always at home at Midnight Christmas Mass.

When I returned home from my first year in college, my parents had sold and moved out of our house (a mom and pop motel in Daytona Beach), and forgot to let my brother Rick and me know where they were staying. We felt so homeless. We eventually found them and celebrated Christmas as a family of eight in a small motel inn…and at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church where I would eventually celebrate my First Mass as a priest twelve years later!

Although it is awkward and difficult for me to celebrate the revised Mass, there is one clear translation that is a tremendous help. “Pray my brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” Our sacrifice is our gift for Christmas, Easter and every Sunday Mass of the year. We offer the gift of plain unleavened bread, wine and water. These simple gifts that were given to us by our gracious God will be transformed into the Lamb of God who suffers and dies. This brings up the second part of our gift to God: suffering.

St. Augustine, our patron saint, is quite clear:
“Whenever we suffer affliction, we should regard it both as a punishment and as a correction. Our holy Scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and rest. On the contrary, the Gospel makes no secret of the troubles and temptations that await us, but it also says that he who perseveres to the end will be saved.”

Another word for “saved” is “Christ”. The more accurate word for “Mass” is “Eucharist”. Therefore, the Mass is really about “the giving thanks for being saved”.

John the Baptist, Our Blessed Mother and all the apostles and saints suffered greatly. If we truly follow Jesus, we must expect suffering. And we must give thanks for our sufferings! Give thanks for your sufferings, cancers, homelessness, struggles, disappointments, broken relationships and persecutions. They all make the best Christmas gift ever if you give them to Our Father. He loves the gift of your sufferings.

And God will top that gift when you hear the priest invite us to the best Supper ever and proclaim as he holds up the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ:

“Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb!”

Love, joy, peace,

Father Ron Moses +